The Vineyards of Hampshire

Seven of the top vineyards across the county have formed the pro-active Vineyards of Hampshire group, with support from Hampshire Fare. Peter Morrell reports

Vineyards of Hampshire is the official organisation promoting the wines from the unique chalk and greensand terroir of what is one of the largest rural counties in England.

This friendly collective, made up of Danebury, Exton Park, Cottonworth, Hambledon, Hattingley Valley, Jenkyn Place and Raimes English Sparkling have gathered together to promote Hampshire’s superb quality sparkling wines, and the county’s unique, and prized, terroir, to both the wine trade and the wider consumer market locally and nationally.

I recently met all seven members of the collective and tried their wines. Here is a brief background of each member and notes of the wine I tasted.

Cottonworth

At Cottonworth they use the traditional method and are focused on producing high quality English sparkling wine from the three classic varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Located in the heart of the Test Valley in Hampshire, Cottonworth is home to the Liddell family who have been farming there for four generations.

Over the last 10 years they have carefully selected 30 acres of prime vineyard sites for the production of Sparkling wine using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The south facing slopes, chalk soil and temperate microclimate ensure the best conditions for growing grapes of exceptional quality.

Wine tasted: Cottonworth Classic Cuvee NV
Pinot Noir 46%, Chardonnay 45% Peit Meunier 9% – RRP £28

Good brioche notes after 25 months on the lees, it was bright with lively acidity

Danebury Vineyards

Danebury Vineyards is a privately owned estate located near Stockbridge, in the heart of Hampshire, on the paddocks of what was a famous nineteenth-century racehorse training yard. The vineyards cover seven acres (2.8ha) of sheltered, south-facing fields on chalk and flint-stone soil.

Their first vines were planted in 1988 and today we produce our flagship vintage brut sparkling wine ‘Cossack’, two varietal still white wines Madeleine Angevine and Schönburger, and the Danebury Reserve, a blend of all their grape varieties. The family has chosen to focus on limited production, following organic principles, which is reflected in the quality of the wine. Although on the fringes of the wine producing regions of the world, England’s long summer days allow for maximum ripening of the grapes, ensuring strong fruit flavours and the chalk and flint soil, characteristic of our region, lends the wine its minerality.

Wine tasted: Madeline Angevine
Madeleine Angevine 100% – RRP £12

A good, fruity wine that is not too acidic but has a fresh uplifting character

Exton Park

The quality of their grapes is of prime importance when looking after their vines throughout the year. Each vine is independently assessed during pruning to judge the strength of the vine, which in turn determines the amount of buds left to grow. they use specific hands-on canopy management from the first stages of bud burst in spring, right up to harvest time in early autumn. These jobs can be very time consuming but are a far more precise way of looking after the vines, than it would be if we mechanised the jobs.

There are a number of factors that make the vineyard unique. First of all the soil; they enjoy the South Downs chalk, which in places is only four inches under the top soil. The vines are all grafted onto specific root stocks that can handle the specific attributes of chalk. The roots penetrate this chalk and absorb the minerals that produce Exton park wines’ natural flavours. The chalk is high in alkaline, making the vines work for what they need. This in turn helps to control the vigour of the vines, keeping the vine’s canopies thin and allowing more air flow through the vines and to concentrate the vine’s energy into the grapes.

Wine tasted: Exton Park Blanc de Noir
Pinot Noir 100% – RRP £29.95

Good brioche notes in the bouquet continue in the mouth with slight hints of lime and other fruits. Well rounded with a strong finish.

Hambledon Vineyard

Hamledon is the UK’s oldest vineyard, founded in 1952. Its geology has played a key role in the planning for Hambledon Vineyard. The chalk on which they grow their vines was formed on the seabed of the Paris basin some 65 million years ago. It is part of the Newhaven Chalk formation that developed between the Santonian and Campanian eras of the Upper Cretaceous period (known as the Senonien period in Champagne). The same chalk, with the same Belemnite content, is found in the best Chardonnay areas of the Côtes des Blancs in Champagne and is thought to be a key factor in the quality of the wines.

Chalk is the perfect subsoil for growing vines because it acts like a sponge, retaining water when needed but also providing great drainage when it rains so that the vines do not get ‘cold, wet feet’

Wine tasted: Hambledon Premier Cuvee
Pinot Noir 24%, Chardonnay 58%, Pinot Meunier 18% – RRP £42.50

A beautiful sparkling wine with toasty notes and hazelnuts. Very complex on the palate with citrus and apricot notes. a smooth mouthfeel and a dry spicy finish.

Hattingley Valley

Simon Robinson established Hattingley Valley in 2008. Following in depth feasibility studies, the first 28 acre south facing site was planted in May of that year. While researching how best to set up a winery, Simon met Emma Rice who had recently founded Custom Crush, a wine analysis laboratory and wine making consultancy for the burgeoning domestic wine industry. Together Simon and Emma planned the modern, eco-friendly winery in Wield that was completed in 2010.

The vineyard team is headed up by Jim Bowerman and Romain Henrion who are assisted by James Matyear. These dedicated viticulturalists willingly pioneer techniques in wind and frost protection, irrigation, nutrient application and canopy management. They continually evaluate the Hampshire terroir and experiment by planting a range of grape varieties and root stock in order to achieve the very best fruit-bearing vines. The team manages 60 acres on two well-situated sites. The vines are nurtured throughout the growing year with an environmentally sensitive approach to viticulture that ensures optimum ripeness, yield and fruit quality.

Since launching its first release in August 2013, Hattingley Valley has developed into one of the most respected producers and leading contract manufacturers of English sparkling wines in the country. Our Wines have been recognised in competitions across the globe and we are excited about being part of the industry’s future.

Wine tasted: Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve – RRP £30
Pinot Noir 30%, Chardonnay 50%, Pinot Meunier 19%

Good aromas of brioche and apple on the notes continue on the palate and are joined by tones of fruit and lemon. The wine has good weight as a result of its partial fermentation in oak barrels. The finish is long and satisfying.

Jenkyn Place

Few sites can rival Jenkyn Place. Nestled in the North Hampshire Downs near the quintessentially-English village of Bentley, their vineyards cover 12 acres (or around five hectares) of what were once hop fields.

The same greensand soils covering marlstone in which hops once thrived are now nurturing their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the classic grape varieties used to make Champagne. The vineyards sit on sheltered, chalky, south-facing slopes at 100 metres above sea level, making them ideal for growing the high-quality grapes needed to produce top English sparkling wines.

Their first vines were planted in 2004, with further vines added in 2007 and 2010. The vineyards are now at full capacity, with their rows filled with some 15,000 vines.

Wine tasted: Jenkyn Place Brut Cuvee 2013 – £29.50
Pinot Noir 24%, Chardonnay 62%, Pinot Meunier 14%

A good apple and mineral nose continue on the palate with floral flavours coming to the fore. The wine is well rounded with good acidity and has a long finish.

Raimes

Raimes is on the historic Tichborne Estate, the farm stretches from the protected and ecologically diverse water meadows of the River Itchen, to the grassy rolling hills of the South Downs near Winchester. We have a busy working farm growing wheat, barley and oilseed rape. The grassland is home to our herd of traditional pedigree horned Hereford cattle.

The quality of their grapes is of prime importance when looking after their vines throughout the year. Each vine is independently assessed during pruning to judge the strength of the vine, which in turn determines the amount of buds left to grow. they use specific hands-on canopy management from the first stages of bud burst in spring, right up to harvest time in early autumn. These jobs can be very time consuming but are a far more precise way of looking after the vines, than it would be if we mechanised the jobs.

There are a number of factors that make the vineyard unique. First of all the soil; they enjoy the South Downs chalk, which in places is only four inches under the top soil. The vines are all grafted onto specific root stocks that can handle the specific attributes of chalk. The roots penetrate this chalk and absorb the minerals that produce Exton park wines’ natural flavours. The chalk is high in alkaline, making the vines work for what they need. This in turn helps to control the vigour of the vines, keeping the vine’s canopies thin and allowing more air flow through the vines and to concentrate the vine’s energy into the grapes.

Wine tasted: Raimes English Sparkling Wine Classic
Pinot Noir 20%, Chardonnay 51%, Pinot Meunier 20% – RRP £29.95

Some of the vineyards offer wine tours, see their websites for more details

An other good resource for wine tour information can be found at
www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/food-and-drink/vineyards

For more information go to
www.vineyardsofhampshire.co.uk/home-page

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